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Ferris ready to rock French

By Niall Crozier

Declan Kidney’s patience and willingness to give Stephen Ferris time to recover from injury has been vindicated.

The Ulster blindside has been passed fit and will wear the number six jersey against the French tomorrow at Stade de France.

Ferris was a 14-year-old Friends’ School pupil when Ireland last won in Paris.

His old teacher, Barney McGonigle, is a close friend of Kidney, having worked in tandem with him at Irish Schools level. And it was there, too, that the Friends teacher worked with Kevin McLaughlin, who now misses out because of Ferris’s return.

Last night the man who discovered Ferris and played a major part in his development expressed his admiration for everyone concerned in getting the flanker fit for what promises to be a bruising physical battle.

He said: “Fair play to Declan for having given Stephen the chance to get fit, to the fitness boys for their work in getting him ready and to Stephen, too, for getting himself fit.

“It is a measure of what Declan thinks of Stephen and how highly he rates him that he was prepared to wait.

“Obviously, given the importance of the match, he wanted his strongest team so he will be delighted that, in his opinion, that’s what he now has.

“Believe me, nobody need worry about whether or not Stephen is fully fit,” he continued. “I think that if he had any doubts himself he would have admitted that. And Declan wouldn’t risk him unless he was certain that he was up to it.”

SHOW TIME: pages 92-95\[Michael McCready\]

McGonigle also praised the unfortunate McLaughlin, with whom he worked at Irish Schools.

“While I felt for Stephen last week against Italy, I was delighted to see Kevin getting his chance. He took it, too; he did very well,” he said.

“But he will understand where Declan is coming from with what must have been a very hard decision. This will have been a difficult week for everybody.”

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